Housing Association Amicus Horizon’s proposal to develop the former school site in Tilling Green, now used as a community centre, for housing is raising lots of questions, and a long list was being assembled this week by Rye’s Town Clerk. Current plans for a replacement centre are raising concerns among the centre’s users, and one has put forward an alternative design.
These worries have been discussed at various council committee meetings in recent weeks after Amicus plans for the site were shown to groups who hire the centre on June 26, and representatives of Amicus and Rye Partnership, who currently run the centre, answered questions during a public exhibition of the plans on the afternoon of July 6. Following council pressure, comments could also be made during the following week, while the plans continued to be on show.
However, centre users like John Wylie, whose camera club rents space, believe the centre is too small and will not therefore be viable. Rye Partnership has also said it no longer wants space in the centre, or to run it itself, or to carry on running the current projects including advice services, training and employment events – although these activities will still need some space somewhere.
Other concerns include how organisations and groups will manage if there is a long gap, or indeed any gap, between the old building being knocked down and a new centre provided. The Planning Committee therefore asked the Town Clerk to collate and put to Amicus a summary of concerns, issues and questions that the Town Council expected to see addressed. The councillors’ concerns included whether the proposed centre met actual or likely needs as new homes on the site, as well as those in the steadily expanding Valley Park development, will increase demand. The lack of adequate information and explanations to date also had to be addressed.
The development is being looked at as part of Rye’s Neighbourhood Plan for community needs. The Plan’s Steering Group Vice-Chairman, Anthony Kimber, suggested to the Planning Committee that the size of the proposed centre related more to the financial viability of the development, than residents’ needs. The timing of the demolition of the centre, in relation to a replacement, was also a particular concern that councillors asked to be raised with Amicus.
At an earlier meeting of those who hired rooms in the centre, the Rye Partnership was told by a commercial slimming organisation that they would probably lose customers if they had to move, even briefly, and would very likely not return on account of the costs of moving twice. Another group, providing computer training, said they had no storage space if they had to move out and were concerned whether a new centre would meet their specific needs. John Wylie looks in particular at another group, who hold regular recycling events in the main hall, and their specific requirements. Councillors want to know whether all these uses have really been taken into account – and in particular the consequences if there is any period when no centre is available at all.
Charles Harkness is a Rye Town Councillor